Reading is a form of escapism. Many of us, at some point in our lives, have found solace within the pages of a good book, and YA is no exception. Let's take the popular The Hunger Games and Twilight series; plunging into a world of vampires and werewolves or into a futuristic society allows young people to escape the stresses of reality. Sometimes, and I'm sure we are all guilty of this, a character in these novels will come along that young readers can relate to and can help them understand what is happening in their own lives.
It is here that YA has a responsibility to care for its readership. In a similar way to art having a responsibility to convey complex emotions and breaking down the stigma of mental health, YA is in a great position to help teenagers through the transition from youngster to adult. It has the power to educate its readership about right and wrong, how to cope with heartbreak, and how to prepare themselves for the challenges that lie ahead.
YA also has a responsibility to help teenagers struggling with mental health issues. It can be difficult for teenagers to express their feelings at the best of times, but explaining depression and anxiety is especially difficult. As I mentioned above, characters in YA fiction are quite often very relatable, and if a reader comes across a character going through what they are themselves, they instantly do not feel as alone. Furthermore, with one in ten young people being affected by a mental health issue, YA has a responsibility to educate adults about mental health in youngsters.
Finally, YA has the power to get more youngsters into reading. The benefits of reading have been reported on many occasions, and it is crucial that more youngsters can experience these benefits. Reading can boost creativity and lower stress levels, and with young people heading off to school and university very soon, stress will become more prevalent in young people's lives. That is where reading comes in.
I am an avid reader and fan of YA, and I am hopeful that the genre can step up and be a support for young people. Of course, time will tell if this will be the case.